By Javi Martinez, Jose R. Mendoza and Aaron Salvan
The name of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has been well-known these days. For the past year the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sha has been making a name for itself by taking advantage of the conflict in Syria and in Iraq to create an Islamic caliphate in the near Middle East. So far they have achieved some success, controlling an area roughly the size of the American state of Pennsylvania (119,283 sq.km). This success has allowed ISIS to recruit others to join its operations through a combination of the clever use of social media and more traditional recruiting methods. The governments of the Western world consider ISIS a terrorist organization – quite justified as they are known to behead and massacre people – and treat is as such. However, until recently (around a year or two ago), the al-Qaeda breakaway group was not considered as big a threat as it is now, meaning there were not a lot of measures taken against them. But with ISIS’s recent successes, they have started to take warning and take appropriate responses. Today, ISIS is arguably considered to be an even bigger threat than Al Qaeda. The American response This year, United States President Barack Obama assured the American people on September 10 that although he intends to “degrade” and “ultimately destroy” ISIS, the US response will not involve ground combat, which many Americans are wary of. Instead, support will be given in terms of airpower, training, and humanitarian aid. US airstrikes were vital when Iraqi and Kurdish forces retook Mosul dam, the largest in Iraq, which many feared ISIS could have used to, at best, cut off water and power, and at worst, flood cities. Recently, the US has even conducted air strikes in Syria, destroying training facilities and operational centers, though this recent move has received criticism especially as the US did it in a country that has not specifically given its permission. Although Obama recognized the need to rally Arab nations “on behalf of our common security and common humanity”, the President refused to rely on the al-Assad regime which “will never regain the legitimacy it has lost.” Whether or not Obama finds the support he asks for is a pressing question. The British parliament rejected his call for airstrikes in Syria against al-Assad’s regime in August 2013. However, the White House may find support from British this time around due to ISIS’ beheading of British aid worker David Haines – which British Prime Minister David Cameron has called “an act of pure evil.” The US can expect no support from Russia, Iran, and Syria, which were all quick to condemn the airstrikes saying that it threatens Syrian sovereignty. However, Obama may find support among other Arab nations. In fact, countries such as Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Jordan, and Qatar have helped with the recent air strikes. This can be due to ISIS’s aims to conquer not just Iraq, but the rest of the world and introduce a radical brand of Islam that goes against what these more progressive countries espouse. There will be more potential partners, as there are around 40 nations that have offered to help in the coalition. A war at home In addition to their efforts abroad, nations such as the US and the UK face terrorist threats within their own borders. UK, for example, has seen several of its citizens leave the country to enter Syria and participate in the war effort. Some of these citizens donated aid and supplies, trained in military camps, and later re-entered the UK as possible terrorists. For example, last October 7, the UK police arrested four men, accused of planning and implementing a terrorist plot. This occurred two weeks after the police arrested 10 men for the same offense. The ISIS threat has to be taken seriously, especially as these recent arrests have been “linked back to Syria and Iraq.” Another factor to be considered is how these citizens can enter and exit countries that highly-suspected people cannot enter. In addition to this, these citizens can help provide technical expertise that ISIS may have lacked. For example, many have commented on the quality of video editing for the propaganda videos. Many have suspected that their foreign laborers were in charge of it. At the same time, these countries cannot allow the paranoia and fear to allow them to seize their own innocent citizens as terrorists and strip them of their rights. The struggle to balance national security and protecting the very civilians they aim to serve is a conflict these countries are facing. Viability issues While the foreign response has certainly been admirable, it has to be questioned whether or not this coalition will be built to last. For example, it has to be pointed out that other initiatives that occurred in the past were not successful. One can just look into the situation in Syria, especially as these very same countries also espoused the rebellion against the Assad regime. It has been around for four years since the Arab Spring and Assad’s crimes against humanity began, yet the Assad regime still remains in power. However, these countries now understand that they are in it for the long haul. In order for the operation to be successful, they require their partners on the ground to be trained and armed. Forces such as the Iraqi and Syrian Kurds, as well as the Iraqi government and the Free Syrian Army are the ones that are directly facing the ISIS assault and they are in need of drastic aid and support. ISIS is well-funded and heavily armed, meaning that these forces need as much help as they can get. Lastly, countries such as Turkey must improve their response. As of press time, the Syrian city of Kobane is close to being taken over by ISIS, even though the Turkish border and support is only a few kilometers away. This has to change, especially if the coalition wants ISIS to be eradicated.